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USPS Ups Last-Mile Fulfillment With Next-Day Sunday Deliveries

The United States Postal Service is expanding Sunday deliveries ahead of the holidays and providing retailers with the option to offer next-day store to consumer service.

Fulfillment is the new retail battleground, and store chains are pulling out as many weapons as possible, including buy online, pick up in store, delivery lockers and drive-up pickup. And now the USPS has added to the arsenal.

The Associated Press reports that for participating retailers, the Postal Service will pick up goods at local stores with a predetermined cutoff time on Saturdays and deliver them to customers the next day.

Though the post office won’t divulge which, if any, chains have signed on, Walmart is at least considering the option, according to a company spokesperson.

USPS, which currently handles Sunday deliveries primarily for Amazon, announced last week that it would expand the service to include more high volume areas starting on Nov. 26. Last-minute shoppers will even be able to get their packages on Christmas Day in some areas.

With the rise of online sales and the seasons creeping ever earlier each year, USPS says the idea of a busiest delivery day is no more. Now there’s a busy two-week period starting Dec. 11 during which nearly 200 million packages will be shipped per week, with the highest volume expected to occur Dec. 18 to 24.

By expanding its service options, USPS is hoping to take more share as e-commerce transaction numbers continue to soar. Shipping solutions provider ShipMatrix Inc. predicts the number of packages the Postal Service will handle this year will beat 2016’s total by 13 percent, which far outpaces both FedEx and UPS’s expected single-digit gains. The firm said USPS could capture as much as 45.6% of the market during the peak holiday season.

The key to the USPS growth could be found in its focus, which has always been in last-mile fulfillment, with 640,000 employees dedicated to getting letters and packages to doorsteps across the country. It has also positioned itself as a low cost option, which could woe retailers faced with rising rates on some packages from UPS and FedEx this holiday.

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Along with the post office, ShipMatrix’s findings show the big delivery guys should keep an eye on emerging services like Deliv and Uber, which combined are projected to account for 5.2% of holiday package deliveries.

Along with expanded deliveries, USPS is rolling out a new tool that allows recipients to reschedule deliveries if they won’t be home—potentially a simpler solution to package theft than the recently announced services that will allow delivery people to enter unattended homes to drop off goods.